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Locked out stagehands accuse Exhibition Place of bad faith bargaining

Last Updated Aug 25, 2018 at 5:38 pm EST

Workers protest outside the CNE, Aug. 17, 2018. 680 NEWS/Momin Qureshi

Locked out CNE stagehands have accused the Exhibition Place Board of Governors of bargaining in bad faith, saying they are not interested in reaching a new deal.

Justin Antheunis, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 58, accused the board of “paying lip service” to city council following what he called a tense 12-hour meeting Friday with city lawyers and a mediator.

“They’re just paying lip service to the city council who ordered them back to the table with a new mediator,” he said. “They didn’t come in with anything new and that doesn’t actually surprise us because they haven’t come with anything new since we started negotiating back in January.”

The union said it was city negotiators who walked away from the talks with the main stumbling block being the refusal to take the contracting of outside workers off the table.

“IATSE local 58 returned to the negotiations ready to bargain with proposals to modernize and find efficiencies in the contract but the city refused to budge on contracting out language,” the union said in a statement. “Requests from the union for examples of what kind of movement would need to be seen on this issue in order to move negotiations forward were ignored.”

It’s uncertain if a planned meeting for Sunday will now go ahead as scheduled, but Mayor John Tory said he’s hopeful there will be a fair agreement for both sides.

“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “My understanding is Exhibition Place has invited the IATSE union to come to the table again tomorrow and I hope they both go.

“They’re not going to be solving this if they’re not at the table.”

The dispute, which began back on July 20, has led to picket lines outside the annual Canadian National Exhibition, which is taking place at the venue near the city’s waterfront. A letter sent to Toronto mayor John Tory and city councillors by the head of the CNE claims the labour dispute could cost the annual fair more than $1.5 million.

“Right now we’re disappointed because we thought that we had a chance where we could help the CNE over the last week,” Antheunis said. “If we got to a deal, we would be able to put down our picket (signs), have our members go back to work.”